In last month’s Weekly Standard, Harvard criminologist William Stuntz advocated a surge-like strategy for a police force to combat violence in U.S. inner cities.

He opines:

The Iraq surge followed the opposite strategy: The goal was to get less bang for the buck, to use more soldiers to produce less violence. It worked. Post-Saddam Iraq is not, it turns out, ungovernable. All it needed was what any ruler needs in order to rule crime-ridden territory: armed men in uniform standing guard on violent street corners, in numbers enough to reassure local residents that they can walk the streets in peace.

That sounds like–and is–a job for a well-trained, well-funded force. The war in Iraq bears more than a passing resemblance to the battle against violent street gangs in the roughest parts of American cities. The tactics Petraeus used to win that war are eerily similar to the tactics the best police chiefs use to rein in gang violence. But better tactics alone cannot do the job. In Boston as in Baghdad, those tactics work only if the police forces that use them have enough personnel: lots of police boots on the most violent ground.

Today, that condition is not satisfied. Most American cities are underpoliced, many of them seriously so. Instead of following the Bush/Petraeus strategy, the United States has sought to control crime by using small police forces to punish as many criminals as possible. As all those who have even a passing familiarity with contemporary crime statistics know, that approach–call it “efficient punishment”–does not work. Like the Army in pre-surge Iraq, the nation’s criminal justice system is in a state of crisis. America needs another surge, this one on home territory.

The Agitator blog argues that Chicago isn’t Baghdad. U.S. cities aren’t battlefields, and the cops who patrol city streets aren’t soldiers. Residents of high-crime areas aren’t potential insurgents or enemy combatants. They’re American citizens with constitutional rights. Cops and soldiers have decidedly different missions, and it’s dangerous to conflate them.

H/T: The Daily Dish

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